Chromium Backend Beta

We are very excited to announce our first beta of Chromium-backed Wolvic. We’re making early APKs available for sideloading via our downloads page.

The Chromium backend has some real technical advantages in terms of allowing our team to compete in the arenas where Wolvic is installed (AOS-based devices). This is a big deal since we are a small team, competing with giants who are already the de-facto defaults on their devices. Let’s have a look…

Performance Comparison

First, there is an exciting boost in performance with the switch to a Chromium-based backend as you can see in the demo below:

Additional APIs/Active Support

Because of when work stopped on Wolvic’s predecessor, and the fact that there weren’t other active downstream products funding development, the Gecko implementation also trailed feature-wise. Because many parties who are building XR have been investing in Chromium, it has a lot of work upstream and adds support for the WebXR AR module, WebXR layers, hand tracking, and there is even more as under active development.

All of this means that Wolvic can be more competitive, more efficiently.

Engine Diversity and Future Plans

We know that while this is very exciting and planned since our first announcement, many will have questions. We wanted to offer a little more than just our excitement to help answer some of them.

This beta release is not a complete picture of our plans with Chromium. It does not, for example, support extensions or sync. It will as it matures.

We’re not immediately abandoning the Gecko version, we’ll continue to release Gecko-based APKs for some time. That said, over time, its maintenance will slowly give way to maintenance of the Chromium version, unless we can find funding to specifically keep the Gecko version going (and make it competitive) long-term.

We do currently plan to ultimately switch to the Chromium build as our primary offering in stores in the near- to mid-term future as it matures.

The main reason for this is that Chromium is (currently) very advantaged, and doubly so in AOS-based devices. Gecko simply does not have the same level of maintenance or development of its WebXR implementation. It doesn’t integrate well with the engine’s GPU process, nor does it currently receive development priority from Mozilla, which means no new features. Further, there is (currently, at least) no viable WebKit for Android competitor on which to build.

That said, Igalia remains committed to engine diversity, as exemplified by our work advancing Servo and WPE-WebKit, as well as our long track record of merging improvements and new web features to WebKit, Gecko, and Chromium. We also remain committed to using the best available solution for a given context, and in this context, Chromium is currently the best choice. If that changes over time, we will be able to switch engines without breaking the Wolvic experience for our users, thanks to our work to make Wolvic engine-agnostic.